Niagara Gazette

Local News

April 21, 2013

County radio project towers come up short; may cost an additional $330K


Niagara Gazette — "What we're being told about the Upper Mountain site, I'm having a difficult time with that. It's in the middle of the Power Project. How could anyone miss those lines?"

The county took on the system upgrade in conjunction with narrowbanding, a Federal Communications Commission-required move by public radio users to the narrow band of the broadcast spectrum. The upgrade will improve radio coverage and facilitate interoperability among emergency responder agencies including police, fire and public works. Motorola Solutions has the contract to install the infrastructure and supply the radio equipment.

The upgrade is being funded with a $6.8 million long-term loan, Homeland Security grants and the county's cut of a state E-911 surcharge on phones. Spending over and above $10 million would have to be covered with county fund balance, County Manager Jeffrey Glatz said this week.

Adding tower height adds significantly to the project cost because the blueprints have to be revised for each affected tower. The taller the tower, the thicker the concrete foundation and stronger the steel base have to be, according to Godfrey.

Kimball & Associates is working with Motorola and the microwave vendor to minimize the height increases, especially on the North Tonawanda tower, he said.

The county's Generic Environmental Impact Statement on the project is based on tower heights of no more than 300 feet.

Glatz said he doesn't think the proposed construction changes would throw the statement into question, but Godfrey isn't so sure.

As for the cost overruns, officials are questioning whether the county should hold Kimball & Associates and/or Motorola responsible.

Kimball & Associates is overseeing the upgrade project on a two-year, $580,000 contract. Among its duties as project manager, it prepared the bid specifications for the system buildout and scrutinized bids for feasibility.

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